Wolverines join Big 12 Conference
Kyle McDonald | Sports Editor | @kylesportsbias
“We’re really excited,” UVU head coach Greg Williams said. “It’s a higher level of wrestling and we have high expectations for this coming season.”
Air Force, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State and Wyoming will be joining the Wolverines as they make the transition from the Western Wrestling Conference into the Big 12.
“We are excited to announce the addition of affiliate members in sports where the league already maintains a strong competition level,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement to UVU Athletics. “The additional institutions will improve and strengthen what are already strong postseason events for the Big 12.”
These schools will be joining current Big 12 members Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia to create a 10-team league that features an automatic bid to the NCAA postseason competition. The teams will compete for the Conference championship in Kansas City, MO. that takes place on March 5-6, 2016.
“We are thrilled to be competing in an elite wrestling conference against some of the top programs in the country,” UVU Director of Athletics Vince Otoupal said.
It is a big step forward considering that there was no UVU wrestling program just 12 years ago and that up until becoming a member of the NCAA in 2003, all of the athletic teams at UVU were still competing in the junior college ranks as a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
“We are thrilled to be part of the Big 12 Conference in this capacity,” President Matthew Holland said. “A little over a decade ago, we were competing athletically at the junior college level. It illustrates not only the caliber of the wrestling program at UVU but the progress we have made as an athletics department and university as a whole.”
The Wolverines are looking to make an instant impact in their new conference after finishing fourth in their final Western Wrestling Conference tournament back in March.
Led by the return of national qualifiers Jade Rauser and Chasen Tolbert, UVU returns eight of its ten starters from 2014-15 and Coach Williams is excited to see his team compete.
“We’re excited for the challenge and feel like we are up for that challenge,” Williams said.
He is also excited about the quality of opponents that will come to UVU as part of the conference schedule. Williams noted that it is unlikely that the current members of the Big 12 will come to Orem for a dual match this season.
However, he said that they are working on splitting the conference into divisions, which will bring those elite teams to UVU for a match.
“I think that’s huge for our program,” Williams said. “For the great wrestling fans of Utah and the student body it is a great opportunity to see top notch wrestling.”
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